Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Cottage style pea & bacon soup

I had the pleasure of staying in a gorgeous cottage in Lustleigh, Devon this weekend and spent the majority of the time warming my feet by a roaring fire. 

This isn't the first time we've stayed in a cottage for the weekend and luckily I've picked up a few tips about cooking something hearty and delicious using minimal utensils, minimal ingredients and on a budget. What could be heartier than some pea and ham soup? Well in this case, a slightly fancier (more pretentious?) version of petit pois and bacon. This is actually healthy by accident being made up mostly of peas, but tastes delicious and indulgent, like a warm hug, which is what you need to refuel after a long tiring walk in the beautiful English drizzle. Thrown together in 10 minutes and left to simmer for a further half an hour, the only real work you have to do is chop a few onions and mash a few peas. 

You may be wondering about blending/processing the soup when you're in a rustic cottage with fancy kitchen equipment in relatively short supply; the answer? A masher. I've gone for the chunky, natural, thick style of soup where your dollop of creme fraiche sits tantalisingly on top before melting gently into its surroundings. This requires a few gentle mashes with a potato masher (or a fork!) to break up the softening peas, but has no need for a kitchen sprayed with bits of green (I'm presuming everyone is as good at blitzing soup as I am), or a food processor to be lugged across the country to keep you company for the weekend. 

When you're spending a few extra quid to have a weekend away (completely necessary in the deep, dark armpit of winter when summer seems like a distant dream), eating hearty and delicious food that doesn't cost a fortune or take too much time away from fireside lounging is a pleasure that can't be topped.

Add that to long walks, cosy fireside lounging, bubbling river sounds, deep nights sleep and a few (hundred) gin and tonics and you've got yourself the perfect weekend. If anyone is interested in having a go, this is the gorgeous cottage we stayed at - Ivy Cottage, Lustleigh - you can also be safe in the knowledge it has a masher for your peas.

Cottage style pea & bacon soup

Kitchen stuff: a masher, frying pan, large saucepan

Quantities: serves 3 large as a main or 4 as a starter

Timings: 40 mins (30 mins simmering time)

Petit pois (1 bag) 500g
Bacon lardons 200g  (or 200g bacon rashers, chopped) + 2 extra rashers smoked streaky bacon chopped 
2 small onions or banana shallots, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped 
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
30g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 sliced of sourdough to serve, or turn into croutons
Creme fraiche to serve


1. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and add chopped onions. Stir on a medium heat until onions are softened, then add the chopped garlic. 

2. Meanwhile, In a large frying pan, fry the bacon lardons (keeping your two extra rashers aside) until just starting to brown. Transfer the lardons to the onion pan. Add your frozen peas to the pan with the onions and bacon and mix with some salt and pepper. Stir for a couple of minutes until the peas are starting to soften.

3. Pour in your stock and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 mins or so. When the peas are starting to really soften after 15/20 mins, take a masher and start gently mashing some of the peas against the bottom of the pan. As they soften further, the peas will mush up and you can mash some more. If you don't have a masher, you do this with the back of a fork. This will create a deliciously thick consistency with some whole peas left. 

4. Whilst the soup is simmering, in the bacon pan, fry the extra streaky bacon rasher pieces until crisp to serve on top. 

5. It's best to serve with some crunchy toast (preferably sourdough) or croutons as the crunchy texture with the soup can't be beaten. To make croutons quickly: cut the 2-3 slices of bread into cubes and drizzle with olive oil, a large pinch of salt and a crushed garlic clove. Scrunch together with your hands so the bread absorbs the oil. Heat a frying pan on high heat and fry the croutons until deep golden and crispy. 

Serve the pea and bacon soup with a teaspoon of creme fraiche on top, a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits and some crispy croutons or a slice of buttered toast.